CDs are not “obsolete” and will be playable far into the future (Week 29, 2020)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 29, 2020

Q. I recently read your column about the limited selection of CD players on the market. I have an extensive collection of 4,000 CDs and have this horrible fear of CD players becoming obsolete. What do I do then, just put all my CDs in a big pile and burn them? I enjoy my music immensely and listen to my CDs every day. I am temporarily living with and taking care of my elderly mother, and she won’t let me get a stereo system to use at her home. I have an Onkyo receiver in storage for future use, but in the meantime I am using a horrible-sounding Crosley CD player that looks like an old-fashioned radio. It is all she will let me use, even though she enjoys big band era and swing music. Should I be concerned about CD players going away, and should I buy one ASAP and hold on to it in case they do? If so, I would like to get a 5-disc CD changer and would spend up to $400.

-R.C., Pittsburg, CA

A. First of all, don’t ever burn your CDs! Your understandable frustration comes through in your email, but the toxic fumes and fire hazard are not worth it.

When I wrote about the limited number of players on the market compared to what was available in the early years of the format, I did not want to create the impression CD players were completely going away. I think calling CDs and the CD format “obsolete” is a stretch. CD is still the leading format for music on optical media, and you will be relieved to know that I think CDs will be playable for the rest of the natural lives of everyone reading this column.

There are lots of devices that will play a CD besides a CD player. Any DVD or Blu-ray player will also play CDs, though you may have to check for audio outputs on the back of some of the newer players. Besides the billions of music CDs in existence there are also billions of movie discs out there, and accordingly there will be demand for players for decades to come. By the way, it is the ability of these CD-compatible devices that helped drive down demand for CD-only players.

Though I think single-disc players for Blu-ray, DVD and CDs will be around indefinitely, CD changers have definitely fallen in popularity. The only one currently available is the $399 Yamaha CDC-600, so you may want to go ahead and get it now. There are also many used CD and DVD changers available on eBay, Craigslist and in thrift stores. In fact, last year I bought an excellent Integra CDC-3.4 CD changer, in like-new condition, for only $3 at a thrift store. There was no remote control, but I found a used remote on eBay for $15 delivered so when it was all said and done I had a top quality component for under $20. It has worked perfectly since the day I took it home.

Rather than suffer with bad sound, why not enjoy your CDs with some headphones? You can get a CD player and put it on your nightstand with a small headphone amplifier. You could also get a CD player or changer and use an adapter cable to connect the RCA outputs to the miniplug input on a high-quality portable speaker like a Soundcore Flare. That will sound much better than what you are using now, too.